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Kitchen Sink

First Time A Blessing, Second Time A Miracle

February 21st, 2011

The below is born from an IndieInk Writing Challenge issued to me by my challenger, Becky.
Every week, as part of IndieInk’s “game,” participants will be randomly challenged by their peers with a writing prompt. Becky’s prompt for me this week was:
“They say there’s a first time for everything. Write about something that offers more than one first time.”


(Note for my PROMPTuesdayers: PROMPTuesday will show up here on Wednesday.)


I watched my mom die. Held her ice hands, heard her gasps, stroked her head, told her to go. I stood at her bedside for several long minutes afterward and finally, convinced there was no more, turned to tell her brothers and sisters, who slept in rooms just down the hall from where my mom no longer existed. It was November 10, 1997. 4AM.


Moments like that are indelible. Etched forever whether you like it or not. For all your days, you’ll see it. The gray skin, red toenails on white feet, parchment eyes, blue nightgown. You tell yourself it’s all right, you want these final images. Still, in your quiet moments you wish them away. Maybe if I had a voice to go with them, a last goodbye in her own words, something my spirit remembers and not my head. But we didn’t talk in those diminishing days. I’d lost her to the morphine and the body closing down a week before she passed.


She was my mom.


I watched her die.


The last thing I remember her saying as we looked out the bay window is how she wanted to be a bird, free to circle above it all; how she’d come to visit me, after it was all done.


At my wedding four years later, one lone bird looped above me as I walked down the aisle. I didn’t see it. Everyone else did. I wanted to cry; I wanted my bird.




I’d met Rebecca through ElderHelp in 2002, about a year after I married. She was 87, a painter, a writer, a mosaic of soul and grace. We’d visit and talk every Sunday. I was all she had; her son died in 1940 of pneumonia; she became a mom to me.


She told me all her stories. Of a little baby boy who she never came to know, of four husbands, of sickness and redemption through Christian Science. She read to me, and asked me to share my stories — the ones I’d never heard myself say out loud. I was someone else when I was with her — my one true self.


I counted six years with her, filled with acceptance, gentle nudging, mutual silence, simple understanding. Then one October morning, I went to visit and learned she had broken her ankle and was in the hospital. Of course she tried to call me, but never left a message. Too many lost days after that silent voice mail, I ran to the medical center and stayed with her. It was just a broken ankle, but still.


But still. Those things happen, and turn into other things. Pneumonia, convalescence, infection, more convalescence. A month later, I sat at the foot of her hospital bed. I knew what was coming. I’d been there before.


I begged her see. I begged. Let me stay, I pleaded. Let me stay. I still have you for today. I hear your voice. Talk to me. Let me stay.


But she sent me out of the room. I’m enduring, she told me. Let me endure.


I left as she wished. Even though I knew it was coming.


Not twelve hours later, I returned. Rebecca had died seconds before. I lay my head on her chest. I wanted to hear something, anything. Let me stay.


I looked at the clock on the wall in front of us. I knew what was coming, what I’d see.


November 10. 4AM.


I had my bird.


On February 21st, 2011, Jurgen Nation said:

This is breathtaking. I don’t feel right writing how beautiful it is because of the tragic subject of loss, but wow. You really write beautifully.

-(Jurgen Nation / Anastacia)

On February 21st, 2011, Rima said:

I don’t think I have the words to describe how much I love this post. You are definitely, definitely a kindred spirit.

On February 21st, 2011, Ellie said:

Oh. I’m breathless. And speechless.

These words will stay with me for a long, long time.


On February 21st, 2011, Thinkingtoohard said:

How is it that you made my challenge look like, well . . . not a challenge at all?! Slam dunk. Beautifully done. And heartbreakingly so.

On February 21st, 2011, Tweets that mention San Diego Momma » Blog Archive » First Time A Blessing, Second Time A Miracle -- said:

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by San Diego Momma and Rima, Thinking Too Hard. Thinking Too Hard said: RT @SanDiegoMomma: Thanks @thinking2hard13 for my @II_Challenge from @IndieInk: It evoked something… […]

On February 21st, 2011, Sue said:

soft and beautiful. love it.

On February 21st, 2011, Christina said:

Wow. Thank you for sharing this story. It was so touching.

On February 21st, 2011, Jason Hughes said:

Thank you for sharing this part of your life. It was beautifully written!

On February 21st, 2011, TJ said:

Wow. Just wow. This is the whole reason we are doing this writing challenge in the first place. Reading this post actually made me tear up. Really. Thank you so much for sharing this.

On February 21st, 2011, txsjewels said:

gorgeous. as inspiring as it was read, it’s equally empowering to realize the strength it must have taken to write it. so well done. sincere thanks.

On February 21st, 2011, Fina said:

I love the writing challenge. I love your talent. This. is. stunning. Thank you so much for participating. It’s posts like these that encourage and inspire me to remain honest, even when talking about sadness. Thank you.

On February 21st, 2011, Jenn Sullivan said:

Wow, crying. You are strong. Hugs.

On February 22nd, 2011, tinsenpup said:

Wow, Deb. What can I say? That’s really powerful writing.

On February 22nd, 2011, JenniferfromLaJolla said:

I so admire you.

On February 22nd, 2011, Cab said:

Well done, beautiful writing. Your compassion is inspirational.

On February 22nd, 2011, Boni said:


This is really heartfelt and amazing. I’m sorry for your loss but you gained such clarity and perspective that you bring to your writing. I’m sure they are both very proud of you. Thank you for sharing.


On February 22nd, 2011, Mama Mary said:

Every time I hear this story I cry. Love you, friend. And love your writing! xo

On February 22nd, 2011, Becky said:

Wow — I’m late getting here but, wow.
I need to read this again.. to savor the emotion.

On February 22nd, 2011, flutter said:

Deb this is amazing. You are just a beautiful soul.

On February 22nd, 2011, San Diego Momma said:

Really touched.
Thank you all for the comments and love.

On February 22nd, 2011, anastasia mcdonnellism said:

That was so lovely – you really got me at the one looping bird at your wedding…tears spilled over. Thank you for sharing these pieces of your heart with us. Your writing is just beautiful.

On February 23rd, 2011, evenstarwen said:

This is so incredibly, deeply, beautiful. Your writing moves me. But I can only imagine the parts of the story that you didn’t tell, because there are no words for them. Somehow, those moments still shine through.

On February 23rd, 2011, Kerri Anne said:

“Moments like that are indelible. Etched forever whether you like it or not. For all your days, you’ll see it. The gray skin, red toenails on white feet, parchment eyes, blue nightgown. You tell yourself it’s all right, you want these final images. Still, in your quiet moments you wish them away.”

YES. Beautifully said. All of it.

On February 23rd, 2011, Supermaren said:

Wow, I’m seriously tearing up. That was beautifully written.

On February 23rd, 2011, Jessica said:

oh Deb. So moving, so incredible. I have a client who reminds of Rebecca. I adore her and am so grateful to have her in my life.

On February 24th, 2011, You can call me, 'Sir' said:

This is so well written and genuinely moving. Thanks for sharing.

On February 24th, 2011, Bejewell said:

I love, love, LOVE this post. You’re so beautiful.

On February 24th, 2011, Ferd said:

That gave me tingles!

On February 25th, 2011, Lee said:

Deb – amazing. This story has stopped me in my tracks today. Lovely and haunting filled with life and soul and heart and love and longing and well… are a gorgeous writer.


On February 25th, 2011, amy said:

So beautiful.

On February 26th, 2011, Jill said:

A-may-zing story! You brought such tears to my eyes! Must make a trip to SD soon! Maybe even next weekend??

On February 27th, 2011, Fragrant Liar said:

Wow. That was powerful.

On February 28th, 2011, Cupcake Murphy said:

This post made my day. It was like reading a reflection of my life. I too watched my dad die and I too had a dear dear best friend who was 40 yrs older. One of the truest friendships I’ve ever had. Thank you for your beautiful insightful gorgeous writing.

On November 9th, 2013, pauline said:

I watched my father die. I’m still waiting for my bird.
As for you, my friend? This was breathtaking.

On November 10th, 2013, Sarah Piazza said:


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